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Toxic employees? First, look in the mirror.

Earlier this week, a friend of mine who works in retail shared with me that her boss, in a daily staff meeting intended to motivate performance said, “You should understand that ALL of you are replaceable! There are toxic people on this team!

Really, Captain Obvious?

Years ago, I took a transformational workshop in which I was repeatedly told, ”There’s nobody out there.” This confused me greatly until I finally understood that life is a mirror that shows us who we are being by putting in our path those who reflect us.

I can’t say I was initially thrilled by that realization.

Now that I understand how The Law of Attraction works, I am happy that life is a mirror because it means I can do something about it. The alternative would be that I have no control whatsoever over what shows up around me.

The Law of Attraction dictates that we get more of what we focus on. We also get more of what we are being.

Show me a toxic team and I’ll show you a leader who is (a) toxic himself or (b) resisting toxicity with everything he’s got (which means his full attention is on toxicity), or (c) both. I want to call my friend’s retail manager and say, “If you start focusing on what your team does well, the toxicity will immediately begin to diminish.” I suspect he would reply, “Tell them to stop being toxic and I’ll be able to see what they do well.”

In my line of work, the leadership team that hires me almost always wants me to “fix” the employees. Those employees they want me to fix repeatedly ask, “Are the managers ALSO getting this message?”

That is the dance of poor Employee Engagement: I’ll change as soon as THEY change. I’ll focus on their faults until they stop focusing on mine.

No one seems to understand that you cannot see in the mirror something you are not a match to. As long as you are focused on the behavior you don’t want, you will continue to see that behavior all around you. Worse, when you look in an actual mirror, your face will be that of someone exhibiting the exact same behavior.

I suspect that, like me, you may not initially be thrilled by this message. Take heart. All you need to do is change your focus! Start looking for the behavior you want. If you don’t see it, start imagining it so vividly that it feels like it’s already happening. And watch how quickly things change.

Change your focus; engage your team!

For a PDF of this article click here



Engaged Employees = Retained Customers

I am a Southwest Airlines devotee and, since they are one of the most profitable airlines in the industry, it seems I am not alone.  Southwest customers are such fans that, after 9/11 many of them sent money to the airlines to help them out during the crisis. I’m sorry I didn’t think of it at the time.

If you’ve flown with Southwest then you know their employees, while being serious about safety and quality of service, are also fun and engaged. These are top priorities of the company beginning with the CEO.

In their book The Service Profit Chain, Harvard professors Heskett, Sasser and Schlesinger reveal that the core driver of long-term profitability is customer retention. You’ve likely seen data over the years that consistently points to the fact that it costs significantly less time, effort and money to retain a customer than to get a new one.  The professors’ research identified service and quality as the two factors necessary for customer retention. They also tell us that the most important factor driving service and quality is employee satisfaction, or what we more commonly refer to as employee engagement.

Southwest Airlines is successful largely because every employee knows that the company cares about them just as much as the company cares about their customers.

If customers stay because of service and quality, which is fueled by employee engagement, then figuring out how to engage employees should be a the top of every CEO’s list.

Employee Engagement should also be at the top of every leader’s list.  Whether you are a supervisor, team lead, department head or part of the C-Suite, the lack of employee engagement in your organization is killing your profitability and/or productivity.  

Employee Engagement is solved through action, not surveys and classes. There are three important legs of the Employee Engagement stool:

  • Socratic Delegation that allows the person who will actually do the work to determine his/her approach.
  • Socratic Feedback that develops employees by allowing them to self-critique first before receiving feedback, and
  • Laughter in the Workplace – humor that is kind, and fun.

As a leader, it is important that you get good at all of these.  If you aspire to be a leader, then start learning how to get good at them; they will guarantee that you are seen as leadership material.

Employee Engagement = Customer Retention

Are you serious about giving up micromanaging?

How many times have I heard someone in a leadership position say, “I don’t like to micromanage… BUT…”

Within that simple word—but—there is an entire history: all the times an employee let him/her down, every time they had to take responsibility for a task that a team member failed to accomplish, not to mention being called on the carpet for failing to meet a critical deadline.

Most would agree that being micromanaged is demoralizing, frustrating, and demotivating. For a leader, however, micromanaging can represent a safety net while walking a high wire where the pressure to succeed is intense. Many leaders feel like they’re on the wire completely alone; they micromanage to avoid failure.

So, how do you make sure tasks/projects get accomplished without micromanaging? 

The first and most critical step is to use the Socratic Delegation Process  from the beginning.

When you do, both you and those to whom you delegate will have an extremely clear picture of what has been agreed to including when and how it’s going to be done.

The second step is to make sure you hold your team members accountable for deadlines. When a deadline slips and they don’t hear about it from you for a day, a week or more, they understandably think it must not have been important in the first place. Then they apply that logic to all deadlines from you.

It does not take much effort to record in your calendar a note that says something like, “Deliverable 1 of Project A delivered?” At the end of the day it’s due (and wait until the end of the day), if you haven’t received it, schedule a follow-up email for the following morning. If you send it the day it’s due, you are micromanaging and the employee may be working on it that same night to meet the deadline.  

Finally, appreciation and feedback is important. Employees complain, “When I do something right, I don’t hear a word but when I mess up, my boss is all over me.” If you want to build a relationship where you don’t have to micromanage, make sure you let your team know when they do well AND when they could have done something better. This builds trust and also lets them know you’re paying attention.

Using Focused Attention to Increase Employee Engagement

It’s been awhile since I have written about the numerous benefits of harnessing The Law of Attraction to produce the results you want.

The Law of Attraction dictates that you get more of what you focus on. Unfortunately, this seems much clearer on days when we are attracting what we DON’T want. Expressions like, “It’s going from bad to worse,” or “I feel like I’ve got one foot nailed to the floor and I’m going in circles,” or my personal favorite, “Could you please check my back and see if someone stuck a target on it?” are all results of attracting by accident versus by design.

I had a morning like that. I had more items on my “to do” list than time to do them and I started the day gearing up for a battle. Well, The Law of Attraction did not let me down. My printer wasn’t doing what it should (or, more specifically, what I needed RIGHT NOW) and I got frustrated and angry. So, instead of changing my focus (by now I really should know to do this), I gritted my teeth and forged ahead, determined to conquer the day. As a result, when I went to make coffee (caffeine? Oh, yeah, THAT’LL help calm me down), I spilled half of it on the counter and the other half on the floor. Back to the printer—the problem got worse. Big surprise. But did I pay attention and take 5 minutes to change my focus? You know the answer because it’s what most of us do. We focus on the problem and it grows bigger and bigger.

Once the printing was done (having taken 3X as long as it should and twice the paper), I decided to have lunch and chill out. I made myself a sandwich and then went onto YouTube to find a video from The Voice, my favorite TV show.

This never fails to shift my focus to happier thoughts. I only had to watch 10 minutes of it to feel the tension relax in me and to start paying attention to the fact that I still had half a day left to get some important things done. Now, instead of tackling them while tense, a surefire way for more things to go wrong, I was in a good mood. From past experience, I know I will have an incredibly productive day. But let’s say for a moment that I don’t. At least I’ll have a day when I’m not wrapped so tight I feel like kicking a wall. That alone is worth the 10 minutes I took to shift my focus.

Think of your employees like that pesky printer. The more you focus on what they’re NOT doing, or that they’re doing it too SLOWLY, the more you will attract their poor performance. Not only that but you will infect them with your bad mood. So now, not only do you have a team that’s not producing what you want, everyone is so darn cranky! When people are cranky, they don’t engage; they use whatever protective behavior has served them in the past—sabotaging the work, hiding, calling in sick—you get the picture.

Experiment with the following: as you move about your day, begin focusing on what each team member has done or is doing right. Take a few seconds to fully absorb it. You don’t have to say a word! Not only will your point of attraction shift from non-productive to productive but your team will become more engaged—all without you saying a word. This is the power of deliberately harnessing The Law of Attraction by focusing your attention on what you want.

Or you could just kick a wall.


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